Copper in the Arts

January 2012

Evan Summer: The Fine Art of Intaglio

By Anney Ryan

Evan at Studio 108 Evan at work in his studio, Studio 108.

Photograph by Paul David

Evan Summer may live in a small town, but this printmaker has been making waves in the art world since the mid-eighties.

Equipped with his own home studio and University Printmaking Workshop at Kutztown University (where he also teaches), Summer uses the intaglio method to create his signature detailed prints on copperplate with an almost three-dimensional feel.

He shows in solo and group exhibitions from New York to California, Eastern Europe and Asia. Over the years, he's even invented a copper-plate printmaking system that allows him to send, exhibit and market his work through the mail to galleries all over the world.

Copper is Summer's favorite medium. When he started printmaking as an undergrad in art school, he didn't care for zinc. Copper gave him a cleaner etch, with precise lines that fit the images he wished to create in prints.

To create a copper plate, Summer first covers the plate with acid resistant hardground. He scratches through the ground with an etching needle exposing the underlying metal. It is then etched with acid. When he's ready to see the print, he covers the plate with a thick viscous ink, wipes it with a cloth, and runs it face up through the press, printing on to dampened paper. Sometimes Summer will make fifteen proofs or trial prints before he finds the right result, revising the copper plate in between each print.

Beneath the Surface, print Evan Summer, Beneath the Surface. Etching and drypoint on copper.

Photograph courtesy of Evan Summer

A single plate holds a collage of textures that cannot all be made with one tool. Up close, the etching needle creates delicate branch-like lines on the copper. There are also sections of the copper that appear gritty and weathered, like the surface of blacktop or cement. This is from aquatint, tiny particles of acid resist, which Summer uses to create a tonal effect. The acid eats between the particles of resist on the copper, creating a rough surface that holds ink.

"The density of lines, tools, acid are all factors in what happens on the plate," Summer says. He also uses drypoint on his plates by scratching on the copper with a diamond point tool, to create raised lines on the copper. The result is a fuzzier line than the precise lines he would get from etching.

For acid application, Summer takes his copper plates to the nearby campus. There, thanks to Kutztown University Research Grants, Summer has an acid tray large enough for his bigger works. Although, sometimes he prefers the smaller vertical acid tray at his home studio.

"Some acid produces a solid which can prevent further etching," he explained to me. "The vertical tray helps the solids drop away from the copper."

From start to finish, Summer's process is ever-changing. Sometimes he sketches before etching. Sometimes he draws directly on the ground that's covering the copper plate. "It depends on how well spatial aspects are organized in my mind," he said.

phattie shitta Evan Summer, phattie shitta. Etching and drypoint on copper.

Photograph courtesy of Evan Summer

The images in Summer's prints are all shown from an aerial perspective. The viewer looks down on a series of steps that lead to a wall. The background could be open sky or open sea - it's left to interpretation. Some prints seem to look into a world post-natural disaster, as if a tornado blew through a house, in the midst of building it. Beam-like blocks lay haphazardly, but with a slight sense of order, as if they'd retained the sense of construction after tumbling down.

"I don't know where the images come from," says Summer. "I did see things like this as a kid. Growing up in Buffalo, it was common to visit Niagara Falls on the weekend. It's a place where you look down at something so majestic. Most things in nature, you look up to see."

Vegetables, bugs and animals have also become subjects for Summer's prints.Typically, he works from interest and observation, photographs he's taken when on trips with family. The structure, shape, texture, form, and way insects fit together fascinates both the scientist and artist in him.

Last year, Summer completed a two month residency in China. This January, Summer's work will be showing at the National Academy of Design in New York.

Currently, his work is showing at The Grey Art Gallery in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The Williamsport Sun Gazette will be publishing a feature on him as well. His plans for the future include more of the same - living, teaching, and working in Kutztown.

"I didn't plan to stay here," he said. "But the university has treated me well. I like where I am. Why mess with anything?"

Resources:

Evan Summer Demonstrates Intaglio On Copper

Evan Summer, Kutztown, PA, (610) 683-4535

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